Giraffes, parrots among many species facing extinction, new report warns

Governments around the world spend more than $500 billion annually, in ways that harm biodiversity



Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

By Wam

Published: Mon 8 Aug 2022, 10:32 AM

Last updated: Mon 8 Aug 2022, 12:26 PM

Around one million species of flora and fauna face extinction, according to a report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), supported by the UN.

It may be surprising to learn that giraffes, parrots, cacti, seaweed, and even oak trees are included in the list of threatened species.

Seaweed is one of the planet’s great survivors, and relatives of some modern-day seaweed can be traced back some 1.6 billion years. Seaweed plays a vital role in marine ecosystems, providing habitats and food for marine life forms, while large varieties– such as kelp– act as underwater nurseries for fish. However, mechanical dredging, rising sea temperatures, and the building of coastal infrastructure, are contributing to the decline of the species.

The world’s trees are threatened by various sources, such as logging, industrial deforestation, agriculture, firewood for heating and cooking, and climate-related threats like wildfires.

It has been estimated that 31 per cent of the world’s 430 types of oak are threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of threatened species. 41 per cent are of "conservation concern", mainly due to deforestation, as well as their use as fuel for cooking.

Giraffes are targeted for their meat, and suffer from the degradation of their habitat due to unsustainable wood harvesting, and increased demand for agricultural land— estimates show that there are only around 600 West African giraffes left in the wild.

The current biodiversity crisis will be exacerbated, with catastrophic results for humanity, unless humans interact with nature in a more sustainable way, according to UN experts.

"The IPBES report makes it abundantly clear that wild species are an indispensable source of food, shelter and income for hundreds of millions around the world," says Susan Gardner, Director of the Ecosystems Division at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

"Sustainable use is when biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are maintained while contributing to human well-being. By continuing to use these resources unsustainably, we are not just risking the loss and damage of these species’ populations, we are affecting our own health and well-being and that of the next generation," she added.

The report illustrates the importance of indigenous people being able to secure tenure rights over their land, as they have long understood the value of wild species, and have learned how to use them sustainably.

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Examples of transformative changes that are needed to reduce biodiversity loss include an equitable distribution of costs and benefits, changes in social values, and effective governance systems.

Currently, governments around the world spend more than $500 billion every year in ways that harm biodiversity to support industries like fossil fuels, agriculture, and fisheries. Experts say these funds should be repurposed to incentivise regenerative agriculture, sustainable food systems, and nature-positive innovations.

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